Grudgebridge: A Mess with a Message?

Questionable page demonstrates College system shortcomings

Drinking Societies Facebook Grudgebridge

Few people emerge well from the cacophony of allegations and calls-to-arms flying across Grudgebridge and Facebook regarding drinking societies. These are likely a whisper compared to what’s being said on private Facebook messages, but sadly I don’t really have the money to pay Zuccbot for that information just yet.

Grudgebridge has stated its aim to “take down” all drinking societies. Hundreds of submissions have made anonymous accusations of shocking behaviour (sexual harassment, racism, prejudice, violence, rape jokes, and vandalism to name a few), which many individuals have in turn decried as false or inaccurate. The Crescents have disbanded and cancelled their annual garden party (O horror!)

Grudgebridge is a highly problematic platform to say the least. The page has a clear agenda and is almost certainly selective in its posts. Numerous submissions have been shown to be false, satirical or inaccurate. Some published posts point to easily identifiable individuals in ways that are certainly unethical and could have harmful consequences.

And I can’t be the only one that is uncomfortable with the page itself: among previous posts are a joke that HSPS stands for “Horny Sluts Pussy Sandwich”, and a clearly gendered meme about mathmos “doing anal” to make up for a perceived lack of good looks.

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Examples of Top Quality Banter that don’t quite fit with the page’s more recent condemnations of harassment

Despite the hyperbolic, clumsy and somewhat immature nature of this vendetta, however, the issues raised and moreover their sheer volume make them hard to ignore. There are hundreds of posts. Yes, some of the reports have been shown to be false, but it is hard to believe that these are the majority. Dismissing all of them on the grounds that some cannot be proved to be true smacks of the same thought structures that question the credibility of rape victims. Credibility may be hard to assure, but making this the focus of discussion takes attention away from the bigger issue of these unpleasant behaviours existing and being tolerated.

Another issue that's not being as widely considered is how Grudgebridge has demonstrated Facebook's capacity to air issues that are of concern to the wider university community, but that are frequently known only within the smaller communities of colleges.

Many people who have had bad experiences with drinking socs don't report them to their college because they are too small to require discipline, many people are understandably afraid that a complaint will be easily traced back to them, causing serious fallouts. Some posts said they were afraid to go to JCR members.

Is it possible that Facebook has more power for change than colleges with issues like drinking societies?

What Grudgebridge has done, though clumsily and somewhat egotistically (and with a hint of what feels like vindictiveness), is provide a space where an at least somewhat fuller picture of discontent within the University can emerge. Like my revision notes, the antagonistic page mixes drivel with genuine worth. The issues may be small but they’ve clearly remained in the minds of the submitters, and where else could you see things like this being published? I would never have known about specific issues from other colleges were it not for this platform, and certainly wouldn't have seen a screenshot of another college's internal emails. Like the MeToo movement, this feels like a mass exodus of repressed discontent that reveals problems on a much larger scale than perhaps many people imagined.

Most colleges have so far put forward either no response or a lukewarm one. Undergrads from Clare, Queen’s, Homerton, Churchill and Catz said they had received no email from College. Trinity Hall were – unsurprisingly – quick to send an email addressing the events, but downplayed or even dismissed the issue by urging students to instead “return to focussing on your work”. One hopes that this is because of the unreliable and antagonistic nature of the page, rather than an attitude of resigned apathy.

The submissions may go no further than an angry post, but they have at least brought the issues into a widely acknowledged spotlight and make it harder for college incidents to be swept under the rug. I do not think that disbanding drinking societies is the answer. But giving voice to concerns relating to them, and demonstrating that there is university-wide discontent, feels like an empowering thing.